A dwindling band of brothers

Updated: 2015-08-12 07:44

By Wu Fang(China Daily)

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A dwindling band of brothers

Wang Qichao, 96, joined the army at age 19 in his hometown in Shucheng county, Anhui province. He fought in more than 100 battles, and is one of just a few dozen survivors of a battle in Wuhan in which more than 2,000 people died. Photo by Wu Fang / for China Daily

A dwindling band of brothers

Wang Qichao, a veteran of the National Revolutionary Army, lives with his wife in a dilapidated 100-year-old house. Photo by Wu Fang / for China Daily

Sole survivors

Many of the veterans were the sole survivors of entire companies or even battalions. Wang Qichao was his company's only survivor after a battle that raged as the National Revolutionary Army, the military arm of the Kuomintang, attempted to defend Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, between June and October 1938.

A dwindling band of brothers

The 96-year-old native of Wanghu, Shucheng county, Anhui, was just 19 and on the verge of graduating from high school when he enlisted in the Nationalist army in 1938. The teenager quickly found himself involved in what would turn out to be the fiercest battle of his military life.

"The shells fell like rain, and our brigade was reduced from more than 2,000 men to nothing," he said, pointing to a bullet scar in his right leg that he sustained during the battle.

"The blood flowed like a river, and all the river channels were filled with the bodies of Japanese soldiers," he said. "My fellow soldiers died one after another, and I was prepared to die as well. I was so lucky to survive."

After the battle, Wang was admitted to the Whampoa Military Academy, and was promoted to platoon leader upon graduation. "We hosted a bonfire party and celebrated all night when Japan announced its unconditional surrender on August 15, 1945," he recalled.

Huang Yueyi had a close brush with death, when a shell landed right in front of him during a battle in Youfangdian, Henan province, but failed to explode. "I was lying in a trench with another soldier when a bullet tore right into him," the 90-year-old veteran said. "Those are things you try not to remember, but every time you think about it, you feel only pain."

He declined to talk in detail about the battles in which he took part because he has tried to block out the memories and put the events behind him forever.